First off, another piece on a "forgotten book"--Q. Patrick's Death and Dear Clara (1937)--should be posted on Saturday.
Now, just a few notes about my newest books.
Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery is now available at Amazon on Kindle for $17.99. If you have Kindle and have been thinking you might want to read Masters, it's never going to get cheaper than this!
The paper version is now in thirty-nine university libraries (the book has been out now for three months). I'll post a list of them later this week. There might be one near you!
I am also very pleased to note that the eminent Allen J. Hubin--who succeeded Anthony Boucher as the New York Times Book Review mystery fiction reviewer, founded and edited Armchair Detective (I fondly remember reading all the issues at Louisiana State University in the 1990s), and is the man behind the massive bibliography Crime Fiction--posted on Amazon of Masters that it "is a marvelous work, thorough, well balanced, free of the clutter of academese. Edgar Committee, Mystery Writers of America, take note!" That made my day, I can tell you.
Also, my book on Todd Downing, the 1930s Native American detective novelist and critic, is almost completed and will be published this year, along with reprints of six of his novels. I'll be writing more about the Todd Downing book soon.
Now back to the books by other people!
Marry in haste, repent at leisure.
Usually suspense novels of this sort are associated with women writers, but some of the men tried their hands at these too, including Rufus King, much blogged about here lately.
In 1942, Rufus King, reflecting the tenor of the times, turned away from straight detection (his series detective Lieutenant Valcour made his last appearance in 1939) and began writing what are more properly seen as hybrid detective-suspense novels.
As far as the book is concerned, it is rather good, I think. To be sure, one has to get over the conceptual hurdle that the rich, pliant New York City widow Lily Constable would marry handsome newspaper owner Earl Rumney, himself recently widowed, when she hardly knows him and that she would hand over a quarter of her fortune over to him to plow into his failing newspaper business. King portrays Lily no so much as stupid, but as so essentially good-natured and accommodating that she lets strong personalities run right over her.
When she gets to Earl's classical mansion Blaze Creek (located, nebulously, in the town of Lebanon Falls), Lily (now Lily Rumney) finds herself in a full-fledged Gothic pickle.
Husband Earl's menage, which includes his sister and her husband, his secretary, his son from his first marriage and an absolutely horrid leftist woman celebrity newspaper columnist (she's one of those very political people who doesn't talk to you but rather orates at you), are uniformly hostile to, and contemptuous of, Lily.
Just what lies beyond the door?
The idea of a collection of murder rooms is ingenious and some of the descriptions of them and the people that they represent are truly creepy (and rather modern in their unpleasantness).
Here's a bit of a discussion between Lily and Earl's strange secretary, Miss McQuillan, that takes place as the secretary takes Lily on an impromptu tour of the museum wing of the house. One of the exhibits is the childhood bedroom of Race Blandrick.
"What"--Lily couldn't help it--"had the child done, Miss McQuillan?"
"Well, his crime career started at the age of thirteen, when he had a habit of tying up and torturing children in the suburbs of Boston. It reached its climax toward the close of the last century, when he mutilated and killed a boy of four and a girl of nine."
Lily said almost desperately: "It's late. I think no more today."
Soon Lily is on the phone consulting with a New York psychiatrist she met recently at a dinner party. She thinks Earl may have a little problem, that he's perhaps a trifle morbid. Fortunately for Lily, the psychiatrist is fine with diagnosing the case over the phone. He suggests that Lily make a wax impression of the key to Room 13....
This is the sort of book one doesn't want to say too much about, for fear of spoilers, so I just will add that, in spite of occasional over-writing, a fine narrative tension is maintained and the ending is unexpected. Museum Piece No. 13 is an excellent example of the postwar suspense novel that lives on today as the"psychological thriller" in the hands of such accomplished modern writers as Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters.
Note: Here's a review of the book by Diane Plumley. She liked it too!